The Feltron Report

Written on 19 April 2007
View the complete Feltron Annual Report

There is something extremely quirky about creating an annual report that summarises your own personal life over the past year. Nicholas Felton has been doing it for two consecutive years, demonstrating that clever information design can really make tables and charts visually interesting.

Earlier this year I came across Nicholas Felton’s Annual Report, in which he charts aspects of his life, such as visited places, read books and types of beers drank. He has kindly agreed to answer a few of my questions.

Q&A with Nicholas Felton

1. How long have you been practising as a designer? What areas do you focus on, or do you have special expertise in any area?

I have been professionally practicing for almost 8 years now. I’m comfortable in a range of work from publication to web to identity design… but my expertise would certainly lie in typography and logo work.

2. What is the design project that most inspired you in recent times?

The thing that inspired me the most recently was the alan fletcher exhibit at the design museum in london. His work is amazing, and the way that he reinvented himself and remained relevant through numerous chapters of his career is an even more universal lesson for all of us.

3. How and when did you first come up with the idea for the Feltron Annual Report?

The first proto-report was a project called Best of ’04, a typical wrap-up of the year which included a lot of my favorite discoveries from 2004, but also contained a few statistical gems that I was able to unearth from my notebooks, itunes and computer.

The next year, the Annual Report was born. The 2005 report relied on my daily ical entries to piece together many more statistics than opinions about the previous year… which makes it easier as well as more interesting for me. With the help of a few friends who passed around the link to this exhibit, and some passionate bloggers, the idea took off and the response completely exceeded my expectations.

As a result, I decided that the 2006 report should be bigger and better in every way – which is why I chose to produce it as a print piece.

4. What was a greater motivation for the project–passion for creative information design or reviewing and summarising your past year?

Definitely the latter. The information design is the icing on the cake, but the cake would be inedible without it. In my mind the information design is a slave to the content… because if the statistics are not easily understood and communicated then all the other ideas of the report are moot.

5. You could have chosen any of many concepts and formats for this project–Why Annual Report?

If I understand you correctly, the term and associations of an annual report are extremely useful for the project. What I’m doing is a bit oddball, but can be fairly generally described to anyone as a “personal annual report”.

6. How did you go about choosing the typefaces and colours? Was there a reason why you opted for a condensed font style?

The condensed typeface has proved its worth over the last 2 executions of the project, previously garage gothic and opti giant this year. They both allowed me to get a maximum impact in minimum real-estate, and I relied on opti giant again this month for a chronicle of a week’s consumption for print magazine.

I’m a sucker for yellow, and the process colors in general.

7. A cynic might compare this with a commercial Annual report and argue that this project doesn’t serve any real- world purpose, or that it is creativity for the sake of creativity. What would your response to that be?

I’ve heard worse criticism. The most deflating comments the few people who have called it arrogant or self-aggrandizing. Fortunately, they are well-outnumbered. But it’s a massive misunderstanding of my purpose. My life is not particularly fascinating, but it’s the questions I ask that resonate for readers – and that’s where I feel it can make a claim at being art… something that a cynic could say doesn’t serve any real-world purpose.

8. In my mind, there are many annual reports that follow a very expected format and lack creative flare. If you agree, do you feel this is due to designers not trying hard enough, or is t the client’s prescriptive briefs and limited budgets?

It seems that annual report design is viewed as a graveyard for designers. That’s not to say that there are not beautiful reports made all the time, but they tend to be viewed by clients, designers and the public as quotidian.

9. Obviously, public companies have a responsibility to publish an annual report for their share-holders. If you were offered an open brief for a client’s annual report, what would you propose as a creative design solution?

I don’t know that there’s a catchall solution to fixing the universe of annual report designs. What I would suggest is that there are alternate statistics a company might project that will give a more humane and impressive picture than those required by the regulatory bodies.


What others think:

  1. yair says:

    cool!!!

    20 June 2007

  2. MDR says:

    This is great. This is the corporeal expressed as a corporation. I enjoyed the collection of data and I too have read The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time and mainly drink Stella so in many ways the annual report is like an expanded business card – hello, this is me. I think annual reports are all about corporate performance and health and there are many things that Nicholas didn’t tell us (maybe by choice, as do corporations). eg personal health eg protected and unprotected sexual encounter ratios or illnesses, body mass index, visits to doctor, dentist etc or tax paid, or money earnt unforseen expenses or achieving goals and targets eg finished renovating the bathroom. The report is a recording of events but doesn’t go further. It could also show comparisons of data from previous years and ultimately built a real progression of the corporeal.

    17 July 2007

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